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“Darcy,” Bingley said as Darcy finished his missive to Colonel Fitzwilliam, “perhaps you could help me with a little problem?”
Darcy glanced up from the paper he was folding and preparing to seal. “Anything.”
“Except that,” Darcy interrupted with a chuckle.
Bingley shook his head. It was good to see Darcy so hopeful. “I would not foist her on you. If that were my intention, I would have done it long ago instead of suffering through these years with her airs.”
Darcy inclined his head in acceptance. He was thankful his friend had the good sense not to throw his sister in Darcy’s path. Caroline Bingley was not the sort of lady that he had ever considered. She was too… His brows furrowed, what was she exactly? Devious, practiced, lacking in warmth? Any of those would do he supposed. Put simply, she did not possess a nature that appealed to him.
“I do not know what to do about her hiding Miss Bennet’s call from me,” Bingley continued. “You know I am not the best at knowing how to deal with Caroline.” He sighed. “I wish she would just marry and be someone else’s problem.”
Darcy lifted a brow. “You care for her,” he reminded him.
Bingley shrugged. “Not as much at this moment as I did before I knew she was trying to keep Miss Bennet away from me. I would rather fob her off onto the first chap to seem welcoming than have to keep her and act appropriately.”
“You would not fob her off on the first chap,” Darcy contradicted with a smile. His friend really did care for both of his sisters, no matter how much they annoyed him. “You would see her well-settled, at least.”
Bingley blew out a breath. It was true. If Caroline was not well-settled, he would have to abide her displeasure for the remainder of his life, and he honestly did not wish to see her utterly unhappy, he supposed, even if presently he was not entirely convinced of that fact. “Then what do I do?”
“Nothing,” Darcy replied. “Call on Miss Bennet.” He rose and returned to the group of chairs where he and Bingley had been sitting before and where Bingley was now. “Tell your sister nothing about it. Continue on as if nothing has changed.”
Bingley’s eyes grew wide. “Is that not rather a lot of disguise?”
Darcy shrugged. “Tell her if you must or if she asks, but it will not aid your cause.”
“But you hate –”
“Normally, yes,” Darcy interrupted, “however, it seems necessary at the moment.”
Bingley’s brows furrowed as he nodded his agreement.
“I will even go with you to call on Miss Bennet,” Darcy offered.
“You would do that?” Bingley’s eyes were wide in surprise. “Her relations are in Cheapside.”
Darcy shook his head. “No, they are near Cheapside,” he corrected. “On Gracechurch Street, if I am not mistaken.”
“That is well-removed from Grosvenor Square,” Bingley cautioned.
“I know where it is,” Darcy retorted, “and I am not so priggish as you seem to think.”
Bingley shrugged and gave his friend a look that said he was not entirely convinced that travelling to that portion of London would not be a trial. “If you are certain, I would be happy for the company.”
“Then, it is settled. We will call on Miss Bennet together.”
Bingley smiled as understanding dawned on him. “You wish for her to write to her sister about your visit.”
“Of course.” Having Jane write to Elizabeth about the fact that he had brought Bingley to Jane and had visited her relations in Gracechurch Street would have to earn him some small amount of merit, would it not?
“Very well,” said Bingley, leaning forward with eagerness, “do you know exactly where her relations live?”
Darcy shook his head. “I only know it is on Gracechurch Street.”
Bingley scowled for a moment, his brows furrowed in thought. He took the letter Darcy was tapping on the arm of his chair and went to the door.
“Jenkins,” he called down the hall and then waited for his butler to join him. “Has my sister received any letters from Gracechurch Street?” He knew that Jenkins knew from where every piece of correspondence that entered the house came. He considered it part of his duty to not only see the mail properly delivered but to also be ready to answer if his employer needed a reminder of some bit of information.
“Yes, sir, she has.”
“Do you remember the number in the direction?”
“Of course, sir. It was eighteen.”
“Eighteen Gracechurch Street?”
“Yes, sir. Will there be anything else?”
“Would you see that this is delivered?” Bingley handed Darcy’s message to him.
“Yes, as soon as can be managed.”
Jenkins bowed and left the room. Bingley closed the door and rejoined Darcy.
“So, tomorrow, you will accompany me on a social call?” He couldn’t help the smirk that he wore.
“Happily,” Darcy answered.
Bingley chortled. “Happily? I repeat, this is a social call, and you will be required to be affable.”
Darcy shook his head and smiled. “I know that such a thing is not my strongest suit, but I have a vested interest in your success. For, it seems, I am most anxious to be allowed the chance to disappoint my family’s expectations.”
As Darcy was speaking, the door of the study was flung open and Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam walked entered, followed by a flustered Jenkins.
“I am sorry, sir,” the butler apologized. “I tried to get him to wait.”
Bingley chuckled. “We are all sorry at one time or another for Richard, Jenkins. Think nothing of it.” Bingley clapped Richard on the shoulder. “I did not think you would receive Darcy’s message so soon.”
“Message?” Richard questioned. ” I did not receive a message. I stopped by Darcy’s and his butler told me that he was here, so I came. What message was I to receive? Does it have anything to do with my cousin disappointing his family?” Richard smiled wickedly at Darcy.
“This is why one waits to be announced,” grumbled Darcy. “There are things that you are not supposed to hear.”
At that moment, Jenkins re-entered the room. “A message for you, sir.” He bowed, handed an envelope to Richard, and was gone.
Richard broke the seal and scanned the contents of Darcy’s message, looking up from it in surprise. “You wish to discuss an old acquaintance?”
“Yes,” Bingley took out a third glass and filled it with an ample amount of brandy. “It seems that an old acquaintance of yours has surfaced in Meryton, which is near my estate in Hertfordshire.” He handed the glass to Richard. “You may wish to drink this first.”